Ode to the Motherland

In my mind, the first thing I’d pack when I decided to go Beijing, was my Feiyues. While these aren’t quite the Chinese version, there’s a certain patriotic sentiment I get when I wear them, even though I’m third generation Singaporean.

This trip was eagerly anticipated for a few months, I was there to hang with my friends Calvin and Kathi, attend Beijing Green Drinks and Beijing Energy Network, and meet up with an environmental NGO. It was for both work and pleasure; to see and experience the lives that my friends were living, and to see what opportunities were there for me. And I loved it!

Everything was so convenient. Getting to Cal and Kathi’s place was a breeze. I took the subway there, and then a short cab ride.

They rent a really nice apartment. There was a really lovely cafe on the premises, which I would frequent, and there were other amenities too. This was my home for 5 days.

This is my friend Cal, he was an awesome city guide, and took me to a couple of sustainability events, as well as to great restaurants, bars, and I even followed him to his workplace for one afternoon and worked out of there.

I wanted to do some cycling in Beijing, so Cal let me have his bicycle and he got hold of an extra bicycle. We cycled on the big roads and also in the hutongs. It had been a while since I’d ridden a bicycle, and I wasn’t quite used to it. It was super tricky in the hutongs, which had lots of pedestrians on the paths, such as unleashed dogs, a lady in a wheelchair, a pregnant lady and children. In the end, I threw in the towel and became the pillon rider on Cal’s bicycle. Here we are, getting the height right for me.

On my last night, Cal and I went to Jiang Hu (江湖) to watch one of his Beijing Energy Network peers perform, and his friends Rob and Julian came to join us afters. When the bar closed its doors, we moved on to Mai Bar for cocktails. It was such a wicked night, I had the best time (yes I was pretty hammered)!

There were a couple of occasions that I had Lijiang cuisine for dinner. I love Lijiang, and absolutely missed their food. I went to In & Out/Yi Zuo Yi Wang (一座一忘) with Kathi, and we had the quintessential cold chickpea noodles (鸡豆凉粉), some beancurd and vegetables. It’s a pretty good restaurant and I enjoyed it very much.

Another fantastic restaurant with Lijiang cuisine to try is Dali Courtyard (大里院子), where there is no defined food menu for patrons, so you would sit down and they will continually serve dishes to your table. It is situated in a hutong, amidst the homes of Chinese families.

I did very little of the touristy thing, and gave the Summer Palace and Great Wall a miss. I did go to 798, the art district, and Temple of Heaven (天坛) though, and decided after going to these two places that I wanted to pass on the other tourist haunts for this trip. I loved 798, and enjoyed walking through the museums.

Here are some photos of Temple of Heaven (天坛).

The sky and weather gods were pretty kind to me, would you believe there were  clear skies for two days in a row? It also wasn’t too hot, until the last day I was there.

An interesting thing happened at the airport. Although I had arrived an hour before my flight was due to take off, there was a bit of a mad rush to get me on the plane immediately because China was sending Shenzhou-9 into space, and all planes had to leave the tarmac by 5pm. This is a historical moment because China’s first female taikonaut was on that spaceship.

I felt really happy on this trip, where everyone was so nice. It was also a great breather from work! Cycling about the city was a special experience for me; there was something very liberating about it, although I was mildly afraid of getting knocked down by a car. Inside of me, there was a voice that said “What the hell? Just go for it!” and so I did.

I won’t be getting another break till at least September, I think, so I’m going to hold on tighter to these memories than ever!


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